While watching A Quiet Place, I couldn’t help but hear the reactions of others in the audience. I heard people gasping from shock, sliding lower into their chairs, and exhaling after holding their breath over and over through the movie’s runtime. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a horror film affect a packed theater this way. The long periods of silence and slow moving camera shots build tremendous amounts of suspense, and they make the short bursts of noise and faster movements that much scarier. Not many horror films achieve that kind of balance, and considering that this is John Krasinski’s first time with the genre, I sincerely hope he continues to hone his craft.
A Quiet Place is set in a grim future where monsters that hunt by sound have seemingly wiped out the majority of the human population, and follows a family that has learned to survive by making as little noise as possible. Communicating through sign language, walking on sand paths, not wearing shoes, and other tricks are used by the group to avoid the sound-seeking creatures. Eventually, something happens that attracts the beasts, and our silent protagonists must use all their wit and grit to evade detection.
I have to say that A Quiet Place does a terrific job of showing just enough of the hunters to give viewers an idea of what they look like, but holding the details back so there’s still a sense of mystery (and dread) until the end. Yet another balancing act that usually isn’t pulled off this effectively, and another reason I really, truly want Krasinski to direct more horror.
The lack of spoken dialogue also tests the talent of each cast member, although it doesn’t appear that way because everyone is just incredible. Krasinski and Emily Blunt (who are married in the movie and in real life) are fantastic as usual, and their in-film children, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe, are equally brilliant. I totally felt their bond as a family. In fact it was so strong that I almost started to tear up at one point.
Unfortunately, that particular moment lost some of its impact because it followed a completely idiotic choice made by a certain character. I usually just accept dumb decisions in horror movies because they’re so common in the genre, but it feels wrong to do so when the mistake is made by somebody who has demonstrated above-par preparation and on-the-fly strategic thinking time and time again.
My only other issue with A Quiet Place is (Sorry, Zac) that it probably shouldn’t be seen in theaters. Watching a movie with such an emphasis on silence makes everything else so much louder. In those hushed moments you hear things in the film like the pitter patter of shoeless feet hitting the ground, gusts of wind blowing through destroyed buildings, and old floors creaking, but you also hear every audience member munching on popcorn, every phone vibrating in every pocket, and every chair squeaking. Even the reactions I mentioned earlier would often take me out of the film. I’m definitely going to see A Quiet Place again, but it will be at my house, by myself, while wearing headphones.
Those minor complaints aside, I still love it. Believable characters, terrific camera work, and a spectacular use of sound and silence cement A Quiet Place as one of the most unique and scary horror films in recent years. I highly recommend seeing it… But maybe not with a crowd.